Forecast Calls For Warming Temperature
Today -- Into The 40s, With 50s On Sunday
BY KEN LITTLE
The sharp crack of snapping tree branches was heard overnight throughout Greene County.
As freezing rain gives way to sunshine today, that noise is giving way to the rasp of ice scrapers on cars, as effects of the ice storm that blanketed the area on Friday continue to be felt.
Greeneville Light & Power System (GL&PS) reported scattered outages in the wake of the storm, which covered roads and vegetation with a thick coating of ice in many areas.
As of 6:45 p.m. Friday, only a handful of GL&PS customers remained without power, an employee said.
The ice storm, which began about 6:30 a.m. Friday, closed schools and businesses, and created hazardous driving conditions.
Many people heeded the recommendations of police and other safety officials and spent the day at home.
Those who didn't encountered freezing rain, roads that were iced over in some places, and immovable objects in some instances.
Law enforcement agencies reported numerous accidents caused by slick roads Friday as melted surfaces refroze.
Most were of the fender-bender variety. No serious injuries were reported.
Highs today in the 40s should melt away most remaining areas of ice, according to the National Weather Service in Morristown.
The freezing rain coated power lines and the branches of trees throughout the county, creating an icy beauty, but a heavy and sometimes damaging weight.
After initial rainfall Friday morning and the soaking effects of another band of precipitation that had passed over Greene County by about 2 p.m. Friday, the branches of many trees bent under the weight of between one-quarter to one-half an inch of ice.
"We do expect to see some decent ice accumulation in the Tri-Cities area," NWS meteorologist David Hotz said Friday morning during a teleconference briefing with emergency management officials in the region.
About 15 people gathered at the Greene County Emergency Management Office to plot their strategy for the ice storm.
TOUGH ON TREES
The ice accumulation "is very significant in regards to trees and power lines coming down," Hotz said.
"Travel is obviously very hazardous," he said.
After a brief respite above 32 degrees Friday afternoon, the mercury had dipped to 30 degrees in Greeneville at 4:30 p.m.
"Even if you do get above freezing, you will go back to freezing (Friday night)," Hotz said.
BLACK ICE LIKELY EARLY
With lows in the 20s overnight throughout the area, patches of black ice on local roads are likely this morning before temperatures warm, the meteorologist said.
Weather conditions required Greeneville police and Greene County sheriff's deputies to use four-wheel-drive vehicles to answer calls much of Friday.
Calls for assistance were steady after the rain started falling on Friday, Sheriff Steve Burns said.
"We're mostly just responding to emergency calls," he said.
Drivers who had minor accidents were advised Friday to call and have the dispatcher fill out a card for later investigation once road conditions improved.
In Greeneville, police investigated numerous minor accidents, Chief Terry Cannon said.
"They're wrecking like crazy. We've had a time on Fairgrounds Road and Greeneville Commons," Cannon said.
The police chief anticipated a busy Friday night as well for Greeneville police officers.
"We're getting to every call," he said. "I don't think it will get much better."
Road crews in Greene County were busy all day Friday into the early morning hours today.
David Weems, superintendent of highways, discussed his strategy for coping with the icy roads.
"All crews are out. We're going to split the county up and get the main roads in the county and then get to the secondary roads," Weems said. "As long as the main roads don't freeze over, we'll get to them."
County crews used "pure salt" to break up the icy patches, Weems said.
Highway department vehicles had chains on their tires for better traction after several slid off the road early Friday morning, he added.
Brad Peters, Greeneville Public Works Department director and town engineer, said his department had been busy Friday, attempting to keep city streets as safe as possible.
"We've basically just been putting out road salt," Peters said early Friday evening.
The department's chief concern is keeping the most-highly-traveled roads clear, Peters added, and then focusing on secondary roads.
Most of the main roads were in good condition, he said.
Peters urged motorists to continue to exercise caution when traveling, and commended his staff for the work done during the ice storm.
HEAVY IN SOUTH GREENE
Roads in some areas of the county, such as the Cedar Creek community and other areas of South Greene, were particularly icy, Supt. Weems said.
More than a quarter-inch of ice on trees can spell trouble, Weems said. "If we get over that, you'll start seeing trees and power lines down."
Plans called for the Greene County Emergency Operations Center (EOP), in the same building that houses the Nathanael Greene Museum, to remain partially activated through Friday night.
"We are going to continue to maintain (the EOP) and assess the situation," said Bill Brown, Greene County Emergency Management Director.
Assisting anyone with special needs in the event of power outages remained a priority Friday, Brown said.
By late Friday afternoon, few people remained outside in downtown Greeneville. The Town of Greeneville sent its employees home at noon, Administrator Todd Smith said.
Brown, who spent Thursday night at the EOP, was preparing for another overnight stay there.
"That's pretty much all we can do, is monitor the situation and react accordingly," he said.
A high temperature in the low-40s is forecast for today, with a low around 21 degrees tonight. Sunday is expected to be mostly sunny with a high near 53, according to the National Weather Service.
Staff Writer O.J. Early contributed to this report.